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Gewalt, Krieg und Geschlecht im Mittelalter

Edited By Amalie Fößel

Gewalt und Krieg sind heute wie auch in der Vormoderne keine ausschließlich männliche Domäne, sondern Räume der Männer und Frauen gleichermaßen. In Zeiten kriegerischer Auseinandersetzungen werden Geschlechterrollen ausgebildet, konforme und abweichende Verhaltensweisen ausprobiert und Konzepte von Männlichkeit und Weiblichkeit entwickelt. Erstmals für die Epoche des Mittelalters (7.-16. Jahrhundert) werden daraus resultierende Fragestellungen im interdisziplinären und kulturübergreifenden Vergleich untersucht. Die Beiträge erörtern Geschlechterbeziehungen auf Darstellungs- und Handlungsebene und beschreiben Interaktionsformen in Kontexten von Gewalt und Krieg. Über den europäischen Raum mit seinen zahlreichen Fehden und Heerzügen hinaus werden auch die Kreuzzüge in den Blick genommen.

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Loss and Triumph in the Rolandslied: Cultural Poetics of Space and Gender (Jitske Jasperse)

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Jitske Jasperse

Loss and Triumph in the Rolandslied:

Cultural Poetics of Space and Gender

Abstract: An analysis of the cultural poetics of space and gender in the text and images in the Heidelberg manuscript of the Rolandslied reveals that spaces and places were carefully constructed as sites where masculinity is shaped and negotiated to underscore the triumph of Christianity as well as the potential loss of masculinity in the twelfth century.


The Middle High German Rolandslied is a well-known epic about Emperor Charlemagne and his most valiant knight, Roland;* an adaption of the Chanson de Roland (c. 1100) written by Pfaffe Konrad around 1170 for Duke Henry the Lion (d. 1195) and his wife Duchess Matilda (d. 1189).2 The story narrates that with ←47 | 48→the help of God and many loyal and devout vassals, Charlemagne invades and occupies the territories of the pagans (Muslims) and their leader King Marsilie.3 In agreement with the expectations of its elite public, encompassing the nobility and their supporters who valued heroic deeds of warriors past and present, the “Christians who are in the right” eventually defeat the “pagans who are in the wrong” but not without having to overcome challenges caused by the treasonous behaviour of Genelun, who is Charlemagne’s brother-in-law and Roland’s stepfather.4 After Roland has practically forced his stepfather to undertake the dangerous visit to the pagans as an ambassador on behalf of Charlemagne and his knights, Genelun swears he will bring down Roland – whom he distrusts and dislikes greatly. Thanks to the headstrong Roland, the Christians finally triumph and the hero himself dies a martyr. The overall impression is that this story is completely focused on men who fight, pray, die, and are loyal or are not to their lords. In addition, Konrad portrayed the Christian knights as crusaders who took up the cross and followed Christ as martyrs.5 This image is underlined by paralleling this Christian elite knightly society with the pagan elite knightly community that challenges the order of things.

In the Heidelberg manuscript of the Rolandslied, dated to the end of the twelfth century, this idea is further enhanced by the 39 pen-and-ink drawings with their many depictions of men and battle scenes (fig. 1).6 Three of these ←48 | 49→battle scenes stand out because they show walls, towers, and castles (figs. 2, 3, 4). In fact, these are the only times that buildings are depicted in the manuscript, leading to believe that this design was purposely chosen. Moreover, in the third scene women are portrayed, something one might not expect in such a male-focused narrative.7 The analysis of the visual and textual representations of space and gender offered here brings to the fore that the narrative of Christian triumph was shaped on multiple levels, going beyond the Christian-pagan dichotomy. This article argues for a cultural poetics of space and gender in the Rolandslied. I use “cultural poetics” to highlight that, rather than presenting a literary or historical reading of space and gender in Rolandslied, I suggest sensitivity towards how space and gender are constructed, situated, and modelled within the text.8 This means that I investigate how space and gender are employed as twelfth-century cultural constructs promoting and validating the hegemony of Christian men. To this end, I will first discuss that space and gender are mutually dependent categories, followed by how space is visually represented in the Heidelberg manuscript and some other contemporary German manuscripts. This serves as the framework in which the three drawings with architectural representations and the accompanying text parts are analysed. In essence the argument made here is a methodological one arguing that the visual means employed in the Heidelberg Rolandslied were meaningful. Far from being merely “pretty pictures” the images added an extra dimension to the story as they highlighted the importance of space as site where masculinity is shaped and negotiated to stress the triumph of Christianity as well as the potential loss of masculinity in the twelfth century.

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Space and Gender

The Rolandslied, like its predecessor the Chanson de Roland, is a Western, Christian, and male-authored text in which the construction of masculinity is interdependent with social status (class) and religion.9 A manly man – even when holding a religious position like Bishop Turpin – is a Christian belonging to the nobility, has a strong sense of honor concerning his lord and his kin, and is a skilled warrior ready to defend Christianity by conquering the land of the pagans. Notwithstanding the depiction of pagans as diabolic and brutal, they are also portrayed according to the same code of honor as the Christians to make them appear as worthy opponents. The interdependence of social class, religion, and gender empowers both Christian and Saracens with the right to rule over other people and lands, and this inevitably leads to a clash between the two religions. From the Christian author’s point of view Charlemagne’s army rightfully fights the pagans, who as true warriors and therefore respectable opposition challenge the Christian knights to the maximum. But pagans are also portrayed as weak and unmanly as in the narration of their King Marsilie who is emasculated after his right arm was cut off. In addition, the occasional appearance of women serves as another strategy to build the image of masculinity as one based on conquest, camaraderie, and Christian moral values.10

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In fact, it will become evident that the construction of gender is enhanced by placing bodies in space. Space is understood here as the natural and built environment with the first being dominated by rivers, mountains and plains where battles take place. The built sites can be identified as spaces such as villages, castles and churches that usually are characterized as unified, having clear boundaries, and often carrying names.11 Even though the natural and built environment are not treated with great detail,12 the spaces and places are not merely props simply framing narrative episodes as Bernard F. Huppé suggested in his analysis of nature in the Song of Roland.13 What should be recognized instead is that they are strongly connected to the exercise of power, whether by secular rulers who tried to (re)conquer land or by religious men and women who controlled monasteries ←51 | 52→and churches.14 Through space, whether rural or urban, and the human actions in them, people were included and excluded, shaping their lives and identities.15 Within these environments social hierarchies were reinforced, which means that normative rules about gendered conduct were created.16 Therefore space in medieval cities, towns and larger villages was economic, political, and highly gendered, although the strict division that historians have made between private and public sites inhabited by women and men respectively cannot be applied to all these domains and greatly depended on status as well.17 It should be acknowledged that there is, however, not a simple ‘cause and effect’ rule explaining the social formation of space since space is shaped by people but also has its own impact.18

In the Rolandslied the importance of locations in connection to power is underlined several times, for example early in the story when Charlemagne’s army prepares to embark on crusade (hervart, RL 148) to destroy paganism and ←52 | 53→promote Christianity (RL 85–86) as well as to protect the Christians from being attacked by the pagans (RL 200–205):

Then the army expanded. The Christians mounted themselves and streamed rapidly into the lands. The pagans lit fires and destroyed their own land because they didn’t dare to face the emperor to take it. They laid waste the land as far as the Garonne. They relied on the deep water [for protection]. But their hope deceived them fully.19

Early in the story it is clear that the Christians are having the upper hand: Charlemagne’s army enter the lands of the pagans who as a response set them on fire. There’s nothing left than to hope that the Garonne River (“Gerunde”) will protect the Muslims, but instead this natural barrier fails them.20 Roland and his men cross this border, which also functions as a demarcation between the good and the bad. Yet it is impossible to accept this difference as the natural order of things and the pagans either need to be converted or eradicated. Konrad therefore continues that Charlemagne rules over “Yspaniâ”, where he destroyed its villages, towns, towers, and walls when the pagans refused to convert to Christianity.21 This depiction clearly highlights the knights’ destructive and conquering powers, whereas, on the other hand, the vivid picture of Charlemagne encampment in a tree garden outside of Corderes is added to give prominence to the emperor’s high status and wealth characterizing the elite class that consists of men and women.

The description of Charlemagne’s encampment is given through the eyes of the pagan ambassadors who are to trick the emperor into believing that they will convert. Instead of mentioning the tents that would have made up the larger part of the camp, Konrad emphasizes its location between trees and describes its grandeur exemplified by its heroes, lion, bears, falcons, music, and women who ←53 | 54→embody splendour through textiles and jewellery.22 Although Charlemagne’s lodgings do not seem to be literally divided into spaces for men and women, the way men and women are presented strongly suggests specified roles: men engage in physical activities such as fighting and training of animals while women’s physical presence is passive and related to their beautiful appearance that is to be consumed.23 Perhaps Konrad added this element of male gaze to hint at women’s sexual roles while they accompanied men on crusades to show that while women served to underscore male potency they also had the potential to destabilize the comradeship so important in the Rolandslied.24 The female gaze fostering male heroism – as found in romances – is lacking in this chanson de geste, another indicator that here masculinity is above all shaped through the presence of other men.25

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These two examples give the impression that space is mainly controlled by men and that when women appear they hold roles prescribed to them by men. They also indicate that locations – whether made by nature or (wo)man – interact with people inhabiting them, thereby contributing to the narrative. I contend that the importance of space in the narration of the Rolandslied is enhanced even further through the visual means. Representing towns, walls, and castles, which are also social spaces, was not just a way of adding to the truthfulness of the text.26 Rather, the drawings allow constructing masculinity within the story, as well as directing the gaze of the audience, thus functioning as stimuli to identify with the story’s protagonists.

Representations of Space

One of the earliest depictions in the Song of Roland material is found in the Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin (also known as Codex Calixtinus and Book IV of the Liber Sancti Jacobi, c. 1145–46). In the upper zone of the full-page miniature opening the Chronicle the army of Charlemagne (karoli magni […] exercitus) is represented on horseback and in full armour, ready to leave for Spain. In the left corner Charlemagne is the last one to exit what probably is Aachen portrayed as a crenelated tower with a gate having a door with iron fittings. The setting in Aachen is confirmed by the next scene where above the architectural structure the words Aquisgrani oppidum (Aachen castle) appears.27 Although it is unclear whether Aachen ever had defences, it is possible that the domed structure in fact was an explicit reference to the emperor’s domed palatine chapel, which according to Pseudo-Turpin Charlemagne had built after he returned from Spain.28

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Neither this eye for detail nor inscriptions clarifying locations are found in the pen-and-ink drawings in the Heidelberg manuscript. The drawings do not neatly fit the blank space left for them and their execution is rather crude.29 Everything suggests that whoever made the drawings closely followed a model without worrying about the actual space left, resulting in cut off legs and knights lacking body parts. Other ways of representing the battles would have been conceivable. Even though there are few manuscripts depicting contemporary battle scenes, there are some German examples painting a more vivid picture of warfare. One of the pen-and-ink drawings in Otto of Freising’s Chronica sive historia de duabus civitatibus (c. 1175), probably a copy of the illuminated exemplar that Otto in 1157 dedicated to Frederick Barbarossa, depicts the battle between Emperor Henry IV and his son Henry at the Regen River (fig. 5).30 The emperor and his son and their respective armies are ready to cross the river and to engage in combat. Mounted on their galloping horses, they have their spears pointing forward and their shields ready in defence. In Petrus Lombardus’ Commentary on the Psalms (c. 1180), several battle scenes concerning King Saul and David are included. The fight between Saul and the Philistines, as narrated in 1 Samuel 31, is fought by men in mail armour, wearing helmets, fiercely drawing their swords while defending themselves with their damaged shields (fig. 6). Trampling on ←56 | 57→the bodies of Saul and his three sons the knights engage in combat.31 This warfare imagery indicates that the pen-and-ink drawings of the battlefield and fortifications in the Rolandslied are not unique, even though they are the first surviving Roland images in a manuscript, and they testify to the notion that warfare mainly was considered a man’s affair. Although the drawings in the Rolandslied lack the level of drama displayed in the Chronica and Commentary, this does not diminish their quality to visually and rhetorically structure the narrative of Charlemagne, Roland and the other knights. The images show the moments in the story that were considered important enough to be illustrated. In general, rituals (12 times), meetings and debates (10 times) and battles (14 times) are depicted, but without giving visual clues that mark the spaces where the events take place as specific locations.32 The text is needed to clarify who is depicted, what exactly is going on, and where the events occur. This makes the three drawings in which architecture indicates that the happenings took place within a demarcated space, stand out.33 The built structures are not detailed enough to identify the places as historically existing locations, but then, the images were not meant to evoke true Iberian sites. It is significant that of the 39 drawings these three are the only ones with architectural references, raising the question why this choice was made. Why was architecture depicted here and not, say, the scene when the twelve peers gather at Charlemagne’s court before leaving for Spain, or when Genelun is received by the pagan King Marsilie? In fact, these drawings visualize three important moments for the Christian army, namely the siege of Corderes, the battle at Roncevalles with the destruction of “the temple of Mohammed” and the surrender of Zaragoza where no actual fight is needed (figs. 2, 3, 4). The images thus refer to moments before, during and after the battle of Zaragoza and therefore help organize the chronological development of the story. My discussion of the images and the accompanying texts is not meant to scrutinize the reality of ←57 | 58→the mentioned locations and events. Instead, they are studied as cultural sources informing us how the author and artist textually and visually constructed, situated, and modelled space – natural and built locations – and gender to contribute to the audience’s understanding of a triumphant Christianity as well as to the ideal image of a Christian elite band of brothers.

Corderes: Cleansing the City by Killing Men, Women and Children

The lower zone of fol. 11v is occupied by a pen-and-ink drawing depicting the siege of “Corderes” which is represented by a castle (burc), its stone walls and its gate (bürgetor) as also described in the text that precedes the drawing (fig. 2).

The pagans fled back to the castle. Its entrance was too narrow; there was pushing and shoving. The pagans made many dangerous thrusts. Many doomed people got killed. In the meantime, the hero Roland had arrived. He wore in his hand a gold-decked spear. With it he sent many to hell. His companion Olivier threw back his shield. He rushed over the bridge. They met evil people. Their fortified town was being cut off from them. They reached the castle’s gate. There was a jumble of pagans and Christians. The Christians cried: “Monjoie.” They forced themselves into the castle; Roland fiercely hurt them with the sharp Durndart, Olivier with Alteclere. This hurt many brave men. Their flashing eyes spread fear. With the swords they tormented the men, with fire children and women. Then the fight was over.34

The drawing does not represent anything like the rushing and fierce warriors mentioned in the text who are also visible in two contemporary manuscripts ←58 | 59→made in Freising and Bamberg respectively (figs. 5 and 6). Instead of visualizing the rage of the combat the image of the castle sums up the final sentence in die burc drungen si, suggesting that some Christians knights have already entered the fortified zone and planted their banner there. This is how the depiction of the architecture of Corderes needs to be understood as well. The text mentions that knight Gottfried carries a banner and perhaps he is the one waiting behind the one-towered wall together with the six other heroes, who invitingly hold out their hands to welcome their fellow warriors approaching the castle.35 It could be that Roland and Olivier are the two holding a sword, Durndart and Alteclere respectively. Whether the town Corderes should be interpreted as Córdoba in the south of Spain or as Cortes is not relevant to the meaning of this image in the Rolandslied, although Cortes – located about 60 kilometres north-east of Zaragoza – makes more sense in both the historical and narrative context.36 In this image the depicted wall and tower do not only stand for the town Corderes, but stress the Christian victory in general: the Christians took the town and with swords they tormented the men, with fire children and women, showing that neither age nor gender was a reason to spare the lives of pagans.37

Women in the Rolandslied not only occupy a (small) space as characters, but also inhabit physical locations such as towns. While the fact that the Christian ←59 | 60→knights slew their opponents with swords suggests an active combat between men, the mentioned fire that massacred women and children indicates that Corderes was burned down thereby causing also non-combatants to die.38 While mothers and children feature regularly in medieval written narratives concerned with warfare, the Heidelberg manuscript seems to confirm that they are largely absent from eleventh- and twelfth-century images. However, another example of an eleventh-century pillage, nuances this: the Bayeux Embroidery, narrating the events leading up to the Norman Conquest, contains an image of a mother and child who are fleeing from their home which is torched by two of William’s soldiers (hic domus incenditur [here a house is burned]). Madeline Caviness has pointed out that in the embroidery’s dominant political narrative the woman and child do not just embody the casualties of warfare, but rather reinforce the narrative of the victorious William the Conqueror who used them as a means to urge his opponent Harold into battle to save his people from such tragedies.39 As such, “these creatures of little importance” underscore that the history on the embroidery, like in the Rolandslied, was a man’s space.

Taking or destroying a site means holding and displaying power, something that certainly would have been evident to the courtly audience listening to or reading the Rolandslied, Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria, and his wife Matilda among them. Henry the Lion’s crusade against the Slavic heathens in the east in 1147, promoted by Bernard of Clairvaux and sanctioned by Pope Eugenius III, resulted in the ravaging of the built environment while invading towns.40 The effects of the destructive forces of warfare in daily life were even clearer in the Saxon War (1167–1170) in which many Saxon lords fought against Duke Henry trying to limit his territorial expansions. The chronicler Helmold of Bosau wrote that warriors were imprisoned and mutilated, that castles and houses were destroyed, and towns burned down. The practical goal was to materially harm the lands of opponents by plunder and incineration, while the ←60 | 61→underlying message was to demonstrate that the rival, like the pagans in the Rolandslied, had not been able to defend his own people.41

The importance of castles as places of power is also evident from medieval coinage where architectural representations are references to a ruler’s residence, and more specifically, to his or her town. Walls, towers, gates, temple, and castle denote the seat of earthly powers.42 The arch and towers on Henry the Lion’s bracteates, for example, can either be viewed as a reduced depiction of the town of Brunswick or as a general representation of Henry’s castle or Burg.43 That the representation of Brunswick is certain to have mattered is evident from the seal of the town Brunswick, devised prior to 1231, with the lion and the gated wall flanked by two towers being part of the town’s history and identity. What is depicted on Henry the Lion’s coin corresponds with architectural structures and buildings featured on other medieval coinage, such as those on a coin issued by Margrave Conrad the Great (d. 1157), depicting a castle with three towers.44 Here again, the gated wall, towers and castle – whether separate or merged – are designed to represent a town, and in so doing they symbolize the territories owned by the lord of that town. Chronicles and artworks testify that buildings were valuable assets to communicate both loss and triumph. Precisely for this ←61 | 62→reason the representation of architecture was added to the siege of Corderes, the town that ultimately was purged from the pollution of the pagans by fire.

This action not only had a realistic contemporary touch to it and confirmed the masculinity of the Christians at the expense of the fierce though essentially effeminate pagans, but was also strongly connected to the Old Testament where God and his people punish their opponents – including women and children – by burning down their settlements on several occasions.45 Given the fact that Konrad added many biblical references to the Rolandslied that are not in the Chanson de Roland, the act of destroying Corderes by fire – which is equally absent from the French text – strongly suggests that he had similar Old Testament episodes in mind that helped him to articulate the idea that Christians hold the moral and religious high ground and are therefore in the right to destroy the pagans.46

The Temple of Mohammed and Runzeval: Male Martyrdom Gained

A similar destructive and triumphant moment is depicted at the upper half of fol. 57v (fig. 3) where Roland and his men attack the temple of Mohammed, as is narrated in the text that precedes and follows the drawing.

Full of hatred Roland and his men crushed the heathen’s temple. Its trumpeters were expelled. They killed them all. Then the hero Roland spoke: “Where are you now, Mohammed? Come here and defend yourself. All your men are killed, that I’ve done to disgrace you. I will break down your temple. Can you avenge your trumpeters? Today you were worth of praise, but now you are silent. Your gilded walls must come to the ground. I will bring you down shamefully and trample you in the dust. Your wicked shrewdness has come to an end. Your fraudulence is completely vanished.” Then he had the walls on all ←62 | 63→four sides torn down. There those who cast down the walls wanted to enjoy the gold they obtained. The hero Roland saw this […].47

The image shows the Christians approaching the pagan prayer house of Mohammed (haiden betehûs), which according to Roland will be destroyed (dîn hûs wil ich brechen) (fig. 3). Again, the fierce actions mentioned in the text, are not reflected in the drawing with its steady-going knights on horseback who undemonstratively use their spears and sword. Although ready to destroy the walls, there is no sign of a crushing defeat even though the gated wall is only defended by one knight, perhaps meant to communicate the weak and cowardly behaviour of the heathens. The artist has depicted a gated wall very similar to that of Corderes with its door already open, signalling the Christian victory. There is nothing of the splendour described in the text: neither gilded walls, nor the precious stones mentioned later on. The destruction of the pagan temple is the climax which Konrad has been building up by mentioning time and again that the devilish pagans worship idols, Mohammed amongst them, and that they bring their gods with them into battle.48

A precise urban location where the temple was taken down is not given, but the text provides the audience a sense of space by referring to mountains and valleys on numerous occasions.49 Within the context of the story it makes sense to envision the destruction of the temple at Roncevalles, but Konrad’s first mention of this site is only after his description of the battle at Roncevalles, which led to the death of Roland. The protagonist’s departure from life is announced by natural disasters including an earthquake, tempests, thunder and lightning and an eclipse; elements again found in the Bible.50 As a result towers fell over, beautiful palaces collapsed.51 Having witnessed some of these signs, Charlemagne – who ←63 | 64→held court at Aachen – and his heroes return through the mountains and reach “Runzeval” where they encounter the battlefield:

The emperor and his heroes came over the mountains to the plains. Then they reached Roncevalles. They encountered so many dead on the battlefield that they could not place their feet on the bare earth […]. He [the emperor] barely recognized Roland, Olivier and the great Turpin.52

In this respect, the Rolandslied strongly deviates from the Chanson de Roland, where “Rencesvals” is first mentioned by the pagan King Corsalis – a Berber and one of Marsilie’s twelve peers – who prepares for battle against Charlemagne’s knights who have stayed back in Spain while the emperor returned to Aachen.53 Other Saracen knights mention the location as well when they announce their support, and then Marsilie says My lords, come forward! You shall go to the pass of Roncevaux, and you shall help guide my army.54 During the first battle against the Christians at this spot the pagans were forced back in the direction of the Ebro River – which flows through Zaragoza – but could not pass this barrier because the river had overflown its banks, resulting in the loss of the Muslims’ ships.55 The Muslims were trapped by water and this was not the first time; the Geronne River mentioned at the beginning of the epic also turned out to be an obstacle rather than protection. In his analysis of the Ebro River in the Chanson de Roland, Gerard J. Brault remarked that it invoked the Old Testament “Red Sea symbolizing Salvation through Christ’s blood as well as Damnation, represented here by the drowning of the pagans.”56 Again the elements work in favour of the Christians and against the Saracens.

It is only after this episode that Konrad mentions Roncevalles for the second time, namely when he repeats that Roland has passed away and that the emperor and his men visit the site to commemorate the dead.

So they came to Roncevalles. The emperor was leading the army. There he found his nephew Roland lying alone between marble rocks. With his own hands he raised him. I believe never again was grieve so deep as there.57

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The fact that Konrad only mentions Roncevalles in relation to the death of Roland and the finding of his body suggests that he considers this location to be the site of hero’s martyrdom, a holy site marked by marble rocks which are also depicted in the Heidelberg manuscript.58 These rocks serve as reminders of Roland’s passion, just like the churches and hospital that were built at that site. In fact, Konrad mentions on several occasions that the knights were willing to become martyrs.59 Interestingly there is no drawing commemorating the crucial moment of Roland’s death, the finding of his body or burial, although his last victory of crushing a pagan with his oliphant is depicted.60

The visualization of the destruction of the temple of Mohammed together with the textual and Christological reference to Roncevalles as the location of Roland’s martyrdom thus exemplify the victory of Christianity over the Muslims as well as the maleness of it all. The fierce, but inherently bad pagans, unable to defend their place of worship, buttress the image of the strong Christian warriors whose masculinity is both based upon and strengthened by war and heroic victory. At the same time their triumph exhibits the flawed masculinity of the defeated enemy. The events at the temple and in Roncevalles were the result of active male battle. On the battlefield, situated in the urban landscape, we witness the total absence of women. Indeed, according to King Oigir, a supporter of Charlemagne, the Christian army will surely triumph because now that the healthy pagan men have been killed in the valley of Roncevalles nobody can ←65 | 66→confront us anymore unless women take up arms, or our Lord destroys us.61 Oigir is as sure of the victory as he is of the fact that God won’t let them down and that women’s space does not extend to the battlefield. Konrad’s religious background in combination with a strong sense of masculinity shaped by (holy) war and honour, can explain why women warriors were unthinkable in the Rolandslied.62 The small role women play in this chanson de geste, emphasizes that war ultimately is a male activity. At the same time, women’s non-presence is a way of constructing polarities between pagans and Christians and maintaining active hostility towards the Saracens.63 This raises the question why the pagan Queen Brechmunda is depicted in the penultimate drawing in the Heidelberg manuscript.

Sarragûz and Brechmunda: Sites to be Taken

Zaragoza (“Sarragûz”) is mentioned as the stronghold of the pagans ruled by the bold King Marsilie.64 It is therefore not surprising that Charlemagne has set his mind on destroying the town and he explicitly states so when he sends Genelun to Marsilie’s court.65 While the town of Zaragoza itself is not described, its high hills were an important feature of the natural landscape and their presence is mentioned frequently. And here too the mountains are more than the natural backdrop for the story because what appears to be a hurdle protecting the Muslims from the Christians is in fact a means to demonstrate that no mountain is too high to be taken by the Christians.66

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Despite Zaragoza’s status as the ultimate Saracen stronghold, the town and its residence are not described in the imaginative wording found in the Chanson de Roland, where the envoys enter Sarragosa. They go through ten gates, they pass four bridges. And along the streets where the townspeople live. Approaching the summit inside the citadel, they heard a great commotion coming from the palace.67 It is, however, clear from the French and German text that Zaragoza is inhabited by townspeople, the king and the queen, with the latter performing a prominent role at her husband’s court. It is only in connection to the castle that Brechmunda’s plays her part. There she and her husband receive Genelun, Charlemagne’s envoy, and present gifts to him in return for his support to bring Roland and his peers down. It is also the site where Brechmunda takes care of her husband after Roland has cut off the king’s right arm in the battle at Roncevalles, causing him to flee the scene which Konrad describes as a shameful act.68 As a carrier of elite identity the queen’s actions as advisor, mediator and co-ruler are mapped onto the social space of the court as represented by the castle.69 She is literary enclosed by walls and gates, not deemed fit to enter the urban space of the townspeople let alone the rural space where the battle field was located. This image of a queen is not unusual in medieval textual sources and coincides with general ideas patriarchal society held about elite women.70 Brechmunda is also faced with the physical limits of her power when facing the enemy at the gates.

With erected banner they approached the castle moat. The Queen Brechmunda hastened to have the gates opened. They led the emperor in and she fell on her knees in front of him. “I want,” she said, “make amends and atone. Whatever I have neglected, I’ve done so out of ←67 | 68→ignorance. The devil has long deceived me, but I accept your true faith. Help me become a Christian. I believe in your God. Whatever you advise, I will abide.71

The image follows the first part of the text, but also adds to it by giving details absent from the text (fig. 4). The bearded Charlemagne and his men arrive at the gate, not with a banner but with an upright sword. The gate is indeed open but instead of letting the emperor in it seems that Brechmunda has stepped out of the fortified zone, awaiting Charlemagne for whom she kneels. Her crown decorated with stones and the wide-sleeved dress following twelfth-century fashion, focus attention to her high status. This episode of submission is witnessed by the Christian knights whose turned faces suggest that they discuss what they see, as well as by the pagan woman standing in the gate and three pagan men positioned behind the merlons of the palace gate with its tower.

The crux for understanding this image is, in my opinion, Brechmunda’s position outside the castle. Her other appearances in the text all were indoors, within the domestic environment of the castle.72 Since there are no other contemporary depictions of this scene, we need to turn to different manuscripts to understand the meaning of Brechmunda’s placement outside the castle. Petrus Lombardus’ Psalter Commentary (c. 1180) is instructive again, since King David’s wife Michal is only depicted outside their palace when she is together with her husband (fig. 7). Yet when she is alone, like Brechmunda is after the death of her husband, she is firmly located within the architectural environment, corroborating the patriarchal ideal that women’s place is inside.73 It is therefore possible that Brechmunda crossing the threshold of the castle and leaving the door open for the emperor to come in was considered as transgressing “the bound of traditional ←68 | 69→femininity, reflecting failure of their [Christianity’s] parent religion to inculcate proper gender roles.”74

On the other hand, considering the enormous losses of the pagans, Brechmunda made a sensible decision to surrender Zaragoza and save her own life. The Liber ad honorem augusti (c. 1197) contains a depiction of Queen Constance of Sicily and two attendants leaving the palace of Terracina to surrender to Elias of Gusualdo, her kinsmen. Opposed to Brechmunda, Constance is not kneeling and the text emphasizes her dignity by mentioning her precious robes and jewels.75 Yet when Rocca d’Acre, a strategic border town near Monte Cassino, is besieged by Emperor Henry VI, the town surrenders and Matthew Burrellus kneels before the emperor while he hands over the keys to the castle as a clear sign of submission.76 This image has much in common with that of Brechmunda in that the emperor, accompanied by his knights, approaches the town on horseback and finds the keeper of the castle subjecting to him. The readers of the Rolandslied probably foresaw Brechmunda’s surrender as the pagan queen expressed her doubts towards her own religion on several occasions while also lauding the strength of the Christian emperor. Moreover, the meeting between the queen and the emperor was another crucial element in the story about Christians who are right and pagans who are wrong, which Brechmunda acknowledged by converting to Christianity. In addition, the presence of the ←69 | 70→queen highlights that all the important Saracen male leaders are dead. Her husband Marsilie would certainly not have been able to defend her since he had lost his right arm, leaving him emasculated since he was unable to perform his duty as military leader. Konrad kept reminding the audience of the terrible blow the pagan king’s ego had received and did so with irony when he has two uninformed envoys presenting a gauntlet to Marsilie which he would never be able to accept with his right (proper) hand.77 The glove symbolized fealty to one’s lord which included the responsibility to fight alongside your superior, a duty the infidel king could not fulfil.78 As a result Zaragoza turned into female space, easy to be taken. Through the presence of a woman, the absence of men was made visible; another way of signalling the power of the Christian faith.

Here again, the depiction of a built space, the last stronghold of the pagans, in relation to the construction of masculinity and femininity served to emphasize the theme of loss and triumph. Unlike at Corderes and Roncevalles, the Christian army did not even have to force themselves in but was allowed entrance by a powerless woman. While the queen, by doing so, rescued her flesh and bones and those of her fellow townsmen, she nonetheless had to submit her body and mind by converting to Christianity. As a representative space her body needed to be taken and transformed, thereby adhering to his story of Christian heroics.


While the importance of gender constructions for the narration of the Rolandslied has been acknowledged, the relevance of space and place in the story has largely been overlooked. The natural and man-made sites in this chanson de geste have offered fertile ground to study how, as interdependent categories, space and gender reinforce each other. In the Rolandslied built sites are occupied by men and women, but the capture and defence of these locations is a men’s ←70 | 71→business from which women were largely absent. As such, there was a gendered use of space, which in turn contributed to the construction of masculinity. The unfortunate fate of these locations and their inhabitants reveal the triumphant and destructive nature of war, celebrated here as an environment in which masculinity is created through victory as well as broken down by defeat. Both text and images depict maleness as something that is built in space through physical strength, prowess, and camaraderie, as well as by shared manual of conduct and the absence of women. In this respect Christians and pagans mirror each other, but it is the lack of victory that discredits the Saracen’s masculinity. Visually this deficiency of maleness is underscored by the absence of active fight when the town of Corderes is taken and when the temple of Mohammed is ravaged. By mentioning their inability to defend children and women and the loss of King Marsilie’s right arm, the text adds to this imagery. There were no men left to protect Queen Brechmunda, whose sole option was to surrender herself and to convert to Christianity. In the only drawing with a woman, the pagan Queen has given up her domestic space. The erect swords, the open gate, the kneeling Brechmunda who has stepped over the threshold of her castle, and the complete absence of Saracen knights are visual clues highlighting how the taking of the final Saracen stronghold signals the triumph of Christianity and hails the manly virtues Charlemagne and his knights possess. It is images of Brechmunda and other women, such as Michal in Petrus Lombardus’ Psalm Commentary and that of Queen Constance of Sicily in the Liber ad honorem, that have the potential to stimulate further thinking about women, men, space and power. In this respect this article has called medievalists to pick up the gauntlet and incorporate an analysis of images, including the seemingly uneventful ones as in the Heidelberg manuscript, to gain better insights into story-telling and its impact on our understanding of medieval society.

My analysis of the architectural sites depicted in the pen-and-ink drawings in the Heidelberg manuscript in combination with a study of the text revealed that through the textual and visual poetics of space and gender Pfaffe Konrad managed to create an ideal world in which Christian men have the upper hand over pagan/Saracen men as well as Christian and Saracen women. Giving the patriarchal outlook in twelfth-century Western Christian society with warfare as elite’s day-to-day business and with the crusades on many people’s minds, the Rolandslied was exactly the story an elite audience could identify with. But despite being right, Christians did not always triumph and women did play important roles in warfare. Perhaps Konrad tried to unveil and remedy with the Rolandslied precisely these potential threats to masculinity.

←71 | 72→

Fig. 1: Battle between Christians and Pagans. Rolandslied, last quarter of the twelfth century.

Heidelberg University Library, Codex Palatinus Germanicus 112, fol. 63r. CC-BY-SA 3.0.

←72 | 73→

Fig. 2: Besieging Corderes. Rolandslied, last quarter of the twelfth century.

Heidelberg University Library, Codex Palatinus Germanicus 112, fol. 11v. CC-BY-SA 3.0.

←73 | 74→

Fig. 3: Attacking the Temple of Mohammed. Rolandslied, last quarter of the twelfth century.

Heidelberg University Library, Codex Palatinus Germanicus 112, fol. 57v. CC-BY-SA 3.0.

←74 | 75→

Fig. 4: Brechmunda surrenders Zaragoza. Rolandslied, last quarter of the twelfth century.

Heidelberg University Library, Codex Palatinus Germanicus 112, fol. 117r. CC-BY-SA 3.0.

←75 | 76→

Fig. 5: Emperor Henry IV engages in battle with his son Henry. Otto Frisigensis, Chronica sive historia de duabus civitatibus, c. 1175. The manuscript is also known as Annales Marbacenses. Jena, Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibiothek, Ms. Bos. q. 6, fol. 91v.

←76 | 77→

Fig. 6: Saul and his three sons died in battle. Petrus Lombardus, Commentary on the Psalms. Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, Msc.Bibl.59, fol. 3r. Photo: Gerald Raab.

←77 | 78→

Fig. 7: Michal watches David bringing the Arc of the Convenant. Petrus Lombardus, Commentary on the Psalms. Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, Msc.Bibl.59, fol. 4r. Photo: Gerald Raab.

* I would like to thank Eberhard Crailsheim, Christoph Mauntel, and Jamie Wood for their insightful comments. The final version was written during my postdoctoral fellowship at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid (Juan de la Cierva-Formación, FJCI-2014–22406) within the framework of a National Excellence in Research Grant, ‘The Medieval Treasury across Frontiers and Generations: The Kingdom of León-Castilla in the Context of Muslim-Christian Interchange, c. 1050–1200,’ (PI, Therese Martin, Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivity, HAR2015–68614-P).

* Das Rolandslied des Pfaffen Konrad, ed. and trans. Dieter Kartschoke, Stuttgart 32007, henceforth referred to as RL. The High German passages are taken from Kartschoke. The English translations are my own, but I have consulted Priest Konrad’s Song of Roland, transl. and intro. by J. W. Thomas, Columbia, SC 1994. For the citations from the Chanson de Roland (ChdR) I have used Gerard J. Brault: The Song of Roland. An Analytical Edition, 2 vols., University Park Pennsylvania 21981.

2 For the dating and the identification of the patrons, see Dieter Kartschoke: Die Datierung des deutschen Rolandsliedes, Stuttgart 1965, pp. 39–40; Patrick Geary: Songs of Roland in Twelfth-Century Germany, in: Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 105,2 (1976), pp. 112–115; Eberhard Nellmann: Pfaffe Konrad, in: Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters. Verfasserlexikon 5 (1985), p. 119; Marianne Derron: Heinrich der Löwe als reuiger Büßer und Realpolitiker. Die Bedeutung der Psalmen im Rolandslied und eine neue These zu dessen Entstehung, in: Germanistik in der Schweiz. Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen akademischen Gesellschaft für Germanistik 7 (2010), pp. 1–26.

3 In the Rolandslied the word ‘Muslims’ is never used, instead they are referred to as pagans (heiden). Given that these people live in Hispania (Yspaniâ) and have Mohammed (Machmet) as one of their gods, it is evident that the pagans are indeed Muslims or Saracens. In the Chanson de Roland (ChdR) the words paien and Sarrazin are used, see Brault: The song of Roland (see note 1). In the Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin (late 1140s) pagan is also used. The effect is that it reminds of ancient idol worship and blood sacrifices, Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin: Book IV of the Liber Sancti Jacobi (Codex Calixtinus), ed. and trans. Kevin R. Poole, New York 2014, p. XXVI.

4 This dichotomy is verbalized clearly in the ChdR 1015: Paien unt tort e chrestiëns unt dreit [Pagans are in the wrong and Christians are in the right]. It is also part of Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin where in chapter 12 Charlemagne debates with Aigolande about whose religion is the right one, see Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin (see note 3), p. XXVI and p. 31.

5 E.g. RL 80–82: sine gerten nichtes mêre wan durh got ersterben, daz himelrîche mit der martire erwerben [They wished for nothing more than to die for God and gain heaven through martyrdom].

6 Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Codex Palatinus Germanicus 112, 123 fols., 207 x 147 (174 x 120) mm. The Rolandslied has been preserved in two manuscripts (P and A) and five fragments (S, T, W, E, and M). P, A, and S appear to have been derived from the same source X, see Nellmann: Pfaffe Konrad (see note 2), pp. 117–118. For a more recent analysis on localization of the manuscripts and fragments (including M, which Nellmann did not know), see Barbara Gutfleisch-Ziche: Zur Überlieferung des deutschen ‘Rolandsliedes.’ Datierung und Lokalisierung der Handschriften nach ihren paläographischen und schreibsprachlichen Eigenschaften, in: Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 125,2 (1996), pp. 142–186.

7 For an insightful analysis of the non-presence of women in the Bayeux Embroidery, an equally male dominated narrative, see Madeline Caviness: Anglo-Saxon Women, Norman Knights and a ‘Third Sex’ in the Bayeux Embroidery, in: Martin K. Foys, Karen Eileen Overbey, Dan Terkla (eds.): The Bayeux Tapestry. New Interpretations, Woodbridge 2009, pp. 85–118.

8 My use of “cultural poetics” is inspired by Don Seeman: “Where is Sarah Your Wife?” Cultural Poetics of Gender and Nationhood in the Hebrew Bible, in: The Harvard Theological Review 91,2 (1998), pp. 103–125, esp. 105–106.

9 For a critical analysis of the concept of interdependent categories, see Katharina Walgenbach: Gender als interdependente Kategorie, in: Katharina Walgenbach, Gabriele Dietze, Antje Hornscheidt, Kerstin Pal (eds.): Gender als interdependente Kategorie: Neue Perspektiven auf Intersektionalität, Diversität und Heterogenität, Opladen, Farmington Hills 2007, pp. 23–64; and Andrea Griesebner and Susanne Hehenberger: Intersektionalität. Ein brauchbares Konzept für die Geschichtswissenschaften?, in: Vera Kallenberg, Johanna M. Müller, Jennifer Meyer (eds.): Intersectionality und Kritik. Neue Perspektiven für alte Fragen, Wiesbaden 2013, pp. 105–124. I prefer to speak of religion instead of ethnicity, race or color because what binds the different ethnicities that are indeed mentioned in the Rolandslied is their religion. See Cordelia Beattie: Introduction. Gender, Power and Difference, in: Cordelia Beattie, Kirsten A. Fenton (eds.): Intersections of Gender, Religion and Ethnicity in the Middle Ages, Basingstoke, NY 2011, pp. 1–11.

10 See on this topic Matthias Meyer: Monologische und dialogische Männlichkeit in Rolandsliedversionen, in: Martin Baisch, Hendrikje Haufe, Michael Mecklenburg (eds.): Aventiuren des Geschlechts. Modelle von Männlichkeit in der Literatur des 13. Jahrhunderts, Göttingen 2003, pp. 25–50; and Jo Ann McNamara: The Herrenfrage. The Restructuring of the Gender System, 1050–1150, in: Clare A. Lees (ed.): Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages (Medieval Cultures 7), Minneapolis 1994, pp. 3–29. McNamara considers the Chanson de Roland to function as a promoter of a monasticized form of knighthood, p. 27. The same knighthood also promoted by Bernard of Clairvaux in his In Praise of New Knighthood. For a critical analysis of the idea of gender crises in medieval society with specific references to Jo Ann McNamara, see Bea Lundt: Mönch, Kleriker, Gelehrter, Intellektueller. Zu Wandel und Krise der Männlichkeiten im 12. Jahrhundert, in: L’Homme. Europäische Zeitschrift für Feministische Geschichtswissenschaft 19,2 (2008), pp. 11–30.

11 For a definition of space and place, see Pamela K. Gilbert: Sex and the Modern City. English Studies and the Spatial Turn, in: Barney Warf, Santa Arias (eds.): The Spatial Turn. Interdisciplinary Approaches, Abingdon 2009, pp. 102–121, at p. 103. Albrecht Classen considers space to have different categories such as cosmic, urban, sacred, gendered, and rural, see Albrecht Classen: Introduction. Rural Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times. A Significant Domain Ignored For Too Long by Modern Historians?, in: Albrecht Classen (ed.): Rural Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age. The Spatial Turn in Premodern Studies (Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture 9), Berlin, Boston 2012, pp. 1–191, at p. 26. Sarah Rees Jones describes space in a more concrete way as being streets, homes, and religious buildings. Yet all of these are highly gendered, see Sarah Rees Jones: Public and Private Space and Gender in Medieval Europe, in: Judith Bennett, Ruth Karras (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, Oxford 2015, pp. 247–259.

12 Classen points to the absence of an interest in urban life, cities and the class of burghers in romances and epics despite the fact that medieval cities gained significance at least by the eleventh or twelfth century. Indeed, chroniclers – sometimes eye witnesses – seem to have demonstrated a greater interest in the built environment, although almost always in the context of the movements and actions by the elite. Classen: Introduction. Rural Space (see note 11), p. 16.

13 Bernard F. Huppé: Nature in Beowulf and Roland, in: Lawrence D. Roberts (ed.): Approaches to Nature in the Middle Ages. Papers of the Tenth Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval & Early Renaissance Studies (Medieval & Renaissance Texts and Studies 16), Binghamton, NY 1982, pp. 3–41, at p. 27.

14 Antonio Sennis: Narrating Places. Memory and Space in Medieval Monasteries, in: Wendy Davies, Guy Halsall, Andrew Reynolds (eds.): People and Space in the Middle Ages, 300–1300, Turnhout 2006, pp. 275–294, at p. 293; and Alan V. Murray: The Demographics of Urban Space in Crusade-Period Jerusalem (1099–1187), in: Albrecht Classen (ed.): Urban Space in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age (Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture 4), Berlin, Boston 2009, pp. 205–224.

15 Wendy Davies, Guy Halsall, Andrew Reynolds (eds.): People and Space in the Middle Ages, 300–1300, Turnhout 2006; Albrecht Classen (ed.): Urban Space in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age (Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture 4), Berlin, Boston 2009; Albrecht Classen: Rural Space in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age. The Spatial Turn in Premodern Studies (Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture 9), Berlin, Boston 2012; Barney Warf, Santa Arias (eds.): The Spatial Turn. Interdisciplinary Approaches, Abingdon 2009.

16 Jones: Public and Private Space and Gender (see note 11), p. 247; and Sarah Stanbury, Virginia Chieffo Raguin: Introduction, in: Virginia Chieffo Raguin, Sarah Stanbury (eds.): Women’s Space. Patronage, Place and Gender in the Medieval Church, Albany, NY 2005, pp. 1–21.

17 Jones: Public and Private Space and Gender (see note 11), pp. 248–249. Space as a gendered category is also mentioned by Griesebner and Hehenberger, see Griesebner, Hehenberger: Intersektionalität. Ein brauchbares Konzept (see note 9), p. 112.

18 Shirley Ardener: Ground Rules and Social Maps for Women. An Introduction, in: Shirley Ardener (ed.): Women and Space. Ground Rules and Social Maps (The Oxford Women’s Series 5), London 1981, pp. 11–34, at p. 12. This volume does not deal with the Middle Ages, but offers an analysis of space and women from a global perspective.

19 RL 273–284: Daz her sich dô braite. Die cristen sich bereiten, si sigen vaste in diu lant. Die heiden huoben selbe den brant, selbe si isch wuosten, wande sine getorsten des keiseres nicht erbîten. Si herten alsô wîten unz an die Gerunde. Zuo des wazzeres grunde wolten si dô trôst hân. Si betrouc harte ir wân.

20 For the meaning of water, see Britt L. Rothauser: “A reuer . . . brighter þen boþe the sunne and mone”. The Use of Water in the Medieval Consideration of Urban Space, in: Albrecht Classen (ed.): Urban Space in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age (Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture 4), Berlin, Boston 2009, pp. 245–272.

21 RL 361–370: Alsô wonete dô dâ der keiser in Yspaniâ vil harte gwaldeclîche in allem dem rîche. dorf unde bürege heret er al garewe. türne unde mûre veste unde tiure muose zuo der erde, sine wollten cristen werde.

22 RL 645–670. The women in the camp are not identified, so they could either be the wives of some knights, women who helped with practicalities during the crusade against the pagans, or prostitutes. For women, crusades and warfare, see Helen J. Nicholson: Crusading and Crusading Literature, in: Margaret C. Schaus (ed.): Women and Gender in Medieval Europe. An Encyclopedia, New York 2006, pp. 183–184; and Katrin E. Sjursen: “Warfare,” in: Ibidem, pp. 829–831.

23 For women in the Rolandslied, see Jitske Jasperse: Women, Courtly Display and Gifts in the Rolandslied and the Chanson de Roland, in: Mediaevistik. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Medieval Research 30 (2017), pp. 125–145. For women and audience, see Roberta L. Krueger: Women Readers and the Ideology of Gender in Old French Verse Romance, Cambridge 1993, p. 39; Sarah Kay: The Chansons de Geste in the Age of Romance: Political Fictions, Oxford 1995; Albrecht Classen: The Power of a Woman’s Voice in Medieval and Early Modern Literatures. New Approaches to German and European Women Writers and to Violence Against Women in Premodern Times, Berlin, Boston 2007.

24 The concept of the male gaze was coined by Laura Mulvey: Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, in: Screen 16,3 (1975), pp. 6–18. The theory of the male gaze has also been deemed useful for understanding a cultural code of patriarchy in the central Middle Ages, see Madeline H. Caviness: Visualizing Women in the Middle Ages: Sight, Spectacle, and Scopic Economy, Philadelphia 2001. For an analysis of how and why women appear in crusading narratives, see Sarah Lambert: Crusading or Spinning, in: Susan Edgington, Sarah Lambert (eds.): Gendering the Crusades, Columbia 2002, pp. 1–15.

25 For a female gaze in medieval art, see Madeline Caviness: Matron or Patron? A Capetian Bride and a Vade Mecum for Her Marriage Bed, in: Speculum 68,2 (1993), pp. 333–362; and Martha Easton: Uncovering the Meanings of Nudity in the Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry, in: Sherry C.M. Lindquist (ed.): The Meanings of Nudity in Medieval Art, Farnham, 2012, pp. 149–181.

26 For the idea that images – like references to the ‘original’ Latin text – add to the truth of vernacular texts, see Norbert H. Ott: Die Wahrheit der Schrift im Bild. Ikonographie als Vermittlungsinstanz des Sprachmediums, in: Andrea Schindler, Evelyn Meyer (eds.): Geschichte sehen, Bilder hören – Bildprogramme im Mittelalter (Bamberger interdisziplinäre Studien 8), Bamberg 2015, pp. 9–21.

27 Castle is understood here as a fortified site, see J.F. Niermeyer, C. van de Kieft, Rev. J.W.J. Burgers: Oppidum, in: Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus (<>; First published online: October 2014, consulted online on 22/11/2017).

28 Chronicle of Pseudo-Turpin (see note 3), chapter 5, p. 15: With the rest of the gold and the vast amounts of silver that he had gained in Spain, Charlemagne built many other churches after he returned from Compostela: the Church of the Holy Virgin Mary in Aachen […]. For the defences, see Janet Nelson: Aachen as a Place of Power, in: Mayke B. de Jong, Frans Theuws, Carine van Rhijn (eds.): Topographies of Power in the Early Middle Ages, Leiden 2001, pp. 217–241, at p. 224.

29 Peter Kern analysed the illustrations in relation to the text and concluded that there is an aesthetic unity between text and images and that the illustrator permitted him/herself some freedom by combining several moments in one image, selecting attributes and postures, and deviating slightly from the text. His overall opinion is that image and word are interrelated and that the drawings reflect the poem. Peter Kern: Bildprogramm und Text. Zur Illustration des Rolandsliedes in der Heidelberger Handschrift, in: Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 101 (1972), pp. 244–270. As to why this text was illustrated at all, see James A. Rushing, jr. who discusses the drawings in the Rolandslied in the context of other illustrated Song of Roland material and hypothesizes that “when the oral material is adapted for the church or the literary is presented to the illiterate – then pictorializations are created.” James A. Rushing, jr.: Images at the Interface. Orality, Literacy, and the Pictorialization of the Roland Material, in: Kathryn Starkey, Horst Wenzel (eds.): Visual Culture and the German Middle Ages (The New Middle Ages), New York 2005, pp. 115–134, at p. 128.

30 Otto of Freising: Chronica sive historia de duabus civitatibus, c. 1175. MS Jena Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bose q. 6, Freising, fol. 91v. See Volkhard Huth: Vom Wüten des Beelzebub im gespaltenen Reich. Ein übersehenes Detail im Bilderzyklus der ‘Chronik’ Ottos von Freising, in: Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung. Mitteilungen 102,1 (1994), pp. 271–296.

31 Petrus Lombardus: Commentary on the Psalms, c. 1180. Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, Msc.Bibl.59, fol. 3r. See Gude Suckale-Redlefsen: Katalog der illuminierten Handschriften der Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, Bd. 2: Die Handschriften des 12. Jahrhunderts, Wiesbaden 1995, cat. 59. For the visualization of sound, see Richard Brilliant: Making Sound Visible in the Bayeux Tapestry, in: Martin K. Foys, Karen Eileen Overbey, Dan Terkla (eds.): The Bayeux Tapestry. New Interpretations, Woodbridge 2009, pp. 71–84.

32 Although the categories are somewhat fluid, rituals are depicted on fols. 4r, 19r, 26r, 32v, 43v, 47r, 52r, 53v, 85v, 102r, 108v and 109v; meetings and debates on fols. 5v, 6r, 8v, 15v, 21v, 24r, 29v, 49v, 117r, 119r; battles are on fols. 11v, 57v, 63r, 66v, 71v, 74v, 76v, 80v, 84r, 89r, 91v, 93v, 100r, 114v. Not included in this division are the dreams of Charlemagne on fols. 41v and 98r and the miracle of the dew on fol. 61v.

33 This was already noticed by Kern: Bildprogramm und Text (see note 29), pp. 262–263.

34 RL 861–882: Die heiden vluhen zuo der burc. Vil enge wart in der vurt, vil michel wart daz gedranc. Manigen angestlichen wanc tâten die heiden. Dicke vielen die veigen. Vnder diu kom der helt Ruolant. Er vuorte in sîner hant einen golt gewundern gêr.dâ mite vrumt er manigen zuo der helle. Olivier, sîn geselle, den schilt warf er ze rücke. Er kêrte über die brücke. Si gewunnen leide geste. Diu ire burc veste wart in undergedrungen. Daz bürgetor si gewunnen. Dâ muosen sich gemischen die heiden mit den christen. Sie riefen alle: ‚Monsoy.’ in die burc drungen si. [fol. 11v]. Ruolant züchtigete si hart emit dem guoten Durindarte, Olivier mit Alteclêre. Dâ wart manic helt vil sere. Ir blicke wâren vreissam. Mit swerten kolten si die man, mit fiure kint unde wîb. Dâ wart verendet der strît [fol. 12r]. Corderes is mentioned before in line 609. In the ChdR the mention of “Cordres” is more vivid as Charlemagne has captured the city, smashed its walls, demolished its towers with catapults, and his knights have taken an impressive booty. All pagans are dead except for those who have been converted, ChdR 96–102, and the city is mentioned earlier in line 71. There is, however, no mention of women, children and fire.

35 RL 849. In the Heidelberg manuscript Gottfried is mentioned on fol. 7r and his banner is the first word on fol. 8v.

36 For the identification of Corderes as Córdoba, see Das Rolandslied des Pfaffen Konrad (see note 1), p. 649 (l. 609). For an analysis of what Córdoba looked like during the central Middle Ages based on written sources and archeological finds, see Ann Christys: Cordoba in the Vita vel passio Argenteae, in: Mayke B. de Jong, Frans Theuws, Carine van Rhijn (eds.): Topographies of Power in the Early Middle Ages, Leiden 2001, pp. 119–136, esp. p. 119–125. For an analysis of Arabic accounts of the conquest of Cordoba in which the city wall features prominently as well as the Christians fleeing to the church to rescue themselves, see Nicola Clarke: Medieval Arabic Accounts of the Conquest of Cordoba. Creating a Narrative for a Provincial Capital, in: Bulletin of SOAS 74,1 (2011), pp. 41–57. For the identification of Cordres as Cortes in the Chanson de Roland, see Alvaro Galmés de Fuentes: El guerrero tópico y la realidad socio-cultural de la Edad Media, in: Eloy Benito Ruano (ed.): Tópicos y realidades de la Edad Media, 3 vols., Madrid 2002, vol. 2, pp. 157–168 at p. 165; and Paul Aebischer: A propos de quelques noms de lieux de la “Chanson de Roland,” in: Butlletí de la Reial Acadèmia de Bones Lletres de Barcelona 30 (1964), pp. 39–61, at pp. 45–48 (; Accessed 02–11–17).

37 RL 888–890. This episode is referred to later on by Marsilie when he talks to Genelun, RL 2588–2590. In the ChdR there is no mention of women and children when Cordres is mentioned.

38 For the consequences of warfare for women, children and other non-combatants and a reflection on the term “non-combatant,” see Matthew Strickland: Rules of War or War without Rules? Some Reflections on Conduct and the Treatment of Non-Combatants in Medieval Transcultural Wars, in: Hans-Henning Kortüm (ed.): Transcultural Wars. From the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, Berlin, Boston 2006, pp. 107–140, at pp. 109–117.

39 Caviness: Anglo-Saxon Women, Norman Knights (see note 7), p. 94.

40 Joachim Ehlers: Heinrich der Löwe: Eine Biographie, München 2008, pp. 70–78, esp. pp. 72–75. Henry the Lion realized that it was not very helpful to destruct the land and its buildings if you want to possess and exploit the lands yourself.

41 For an analysis of the Saxon war, see Ehlers: Heinrich der Löwe (see note 40), pp. 141–149.

42 Arthur Sule: Sind die meißnischen sog. Burgbrakteaten wahrheitsgetreue Darstellungen mittelalterlicher Burgen?, in: Frühe Burgen und Städte. Beiträge zur Burgen- und Stadtkernforschung 2 (1954), pp. 195–197; Dietrich Mannsperger: Symbolische Stadtdarstellungen auf Münzen des Mittelalters, in: Rainer Albert (ed.): Stadt und Münze. Fachvorträge des 30. Süddeutschen Münzsammlertreffens 1995 in Speyer (Schriftenreihe der Numismatischen Gesellschaft Speyer 37), Speyer 1996, pp. 73–85.

43 Bracteate Henry the Lion enthroned, + IEINRIC LEO DVX HEINRICS OLEOA, ca. 1170 (?), Ø 33 mm, 0.77g. Münzkabinett, Staatlichen Museen Berlin, obj. no. 18201089. Henry circumvallated his palace complex (the castle Dankwarderode with its chapel, St Blaise church and the adjacent buildings for the canons), Altstadt and Hagen (with Flemish wool weavers) around 1166 with an earth wall (not a stone one), see Gerhard Streich: Burgen und ‘Burgenpolitik’ Heinrichs des Löwen, in: Jochen Luckhardt, Franz Niehoff (eds.): Heinrich der Löwe und seine Zeit. Herrschaft und Repräsentation der Welfen 1125–1235, 3 vols., München 1995, vol. 2, pp. 484–491, esp. p. 285. The Dankwarderode castle (reconstructed as a two-storied hall consisting of two aisles divided by arches) was rebuilt or enlarged by Henry the Lion, probably around 1160, see Cord Meckseper: D 19 Burg Dankwarderode, in: ibidem, vol. 1, p. 176.

44 Bracteate Margrave Conrad the Great, 1130–1150, Ø 37 mm., 0.99 g. Münzkabinett Staatlichen Museen Berlin, obj. no. 18203512.

45 See for example Genesis 19:24 where God is setting Sodom and Gomorrah on fire; Exodus 9:23–24 where he sends hail and fire to Egypt; Deuteronomy 13:16 where he tells his people to set fire to cities of unbelievers; Joshua 8:8 where he commands Joshua to set fire to the city of Ai; Judges 1:8 where the children of Judah set Jerusalem on fire. Enemies of Israel also use fire, see 1 Samuel 30:1–3 where the Amalekites have burned the town of Ziklag which is avenged by David.

46 “[…] denn es geht dem deutschen Rolandslied nicht mehr nur um Heroik und den Sieg über die Heiden, sondern um das Recht auf deren Vernichtung,” Helmut Brall-Tuchel: Frömmigkeit und Herrschaft, Wonne und Weg. Landschaften in der Literatur des Mittelalters, in: Das Mittelalter. Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung 16,1 (2011), pp. 104–130, at p. 117. Brall-Tuchel considers the landscapes in the Rolandslied to be that of war (Kriegslandschaften).

47 RL 4167–4195: Ruolant unt die sîne kêrten mit micheleme nîde an der haiden betehûs. Sîne blâsaere muosen dar ûz. Si ersluogen si alle samt. Dô sprach der helt Ruolant: ‚wâ bistu nû, Machmet? Nû were dich hie ze stete. Die dîne sint alle erschlagen, dâz hân ich dir ze las- [fol. 56r] tere getân. Dîn hûs will ich brechen. Macht dûz nu rechen, di dîne blâsaere? Hiute waere dû vil maere, nû bistu worden stille. Dîne golde garwen dille müezen alle zuo der erde, ich gelege dich unwerde, ich zetrite dich unter den mist. Der dîn vil boese list ist an daz ende komen. Dîn trügenhait, diu is gare verloren.‘ Dô hiez er die wende in allen vier enden zuo der erden stôzen. Dô wolten sîn geniezen, di ez dâ nider sluogen. Daz golt, daz si ûf huoben, daz ersach der helt Ruolant [fol. 57v].

48 RL 3467, 3490–3495, 3516–3524, 3815–3816.

49 RL 3347, 3375, 3534, 3822.

50 For example Amos 1:14; Isaiah 13:10 and 28:2; Ezekiel 32:7; Matthew 24:29; and Mark 13:24.

51 RL 6942–6943.

52 RL 6950–6955 […] 6969–6971: Der kaiser unt sîne helde gâheten von berge ze velde. Dô kômen si ze Runzeval. Si vunden an dem wal sô vil der toten, daz niemen fuoz nemachte gebieten an die bar der erde. […] vil kûm er rekante Ruolanten unt Olivieren unt Turpîn, den maeren.

53 ChdR 892.

54 ChdR 943–945. And there are many more references to Roncevalles.

55 RL 7040–7055; and ChdR 2460–2475.

56 Brault: The song of Roland (see note 1), vol. 1, University Park Pennsylvania 21981, p. 264.

57 RL 7485–7493. This moment is also in the ChdR, 2855–2880.

58 For a detailed analysis of Roncevalles as passion site, see Stephen G. Nichols: Romanesque Signs: Early Medieval Narrative and Iconography, Aurora 2010, esp. chapter 5.

59 RL 3409–3410: unt wâren iedoch gote knechte, zuo der marter gerecht. The theme of martyrdom is emphasized in the introduction Konrad wrote and that is not part of the ChdR, see RL 80–82 and 101–106. Other references are RL 3881 and 7500. In the ChdR the idea of Roland and the other peers as martyrs is also evident, see lines 2384–2395 and 2898–2899; and Brault: The song of Roland (see note 1), vol. 1, University Park Pennsylvania 21981, p. 255.

60 The scene is depicted on fol. 93v, but the event is narrated on fol. 93v and 94r. RL 6771–6785 […] 6796–6801: Ruolant kêrte gegen Yspanie verre von den erschlagenen. Er gesaz zuo ainem baume, dâ beit vil kûme. In ainer sîner hant truog er daz horn Olivant, in der anderen Durndarten. Ain haiden im gewarte. Mit bluote er [fol. 93v] sich allen bestraich, vil tougenlîchen e rim nâch slaich. Dô gedâchte der haiden: ‚unrer disen vier stainen dâ erstirbet Ruolant. Durndarten nim ich ze mîner hant unt Olivantem. […] dô enthielt sich der helt maere, unz im der haiden sô nâhen kom. Ûf zucht er daz horn, über den helm er in sluoc, daz im daz verhbuot ûz sînen ougen spranc [fol. 94r]. For an analysis of this scene, see Brault: The Song of Roland (see note 1), vol. 1, University Park Pennsylvania 21981, pp. 246–251.

61 RL 7468–6470: Wie mächt un san ichte misseschên? Uns enmac niemen wider rîten, ez ne sî, daz diu wîp wellen strîten, ez ne sî, daz uns slüege unser aller hêrre. This episode is not in the ChdR.

62 A change in appreciation of medieval warrior women from normal to abnormal between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries is analysed by Megan McLaughlin in relation to a change from domestic military units – a space that included women and children – to ones less clearly connected to the household, see Megan McLaughlin: The Woman Warrior. Gender, Warfare and Society in Medieval Europe, in: Women’s Studies 17,3/4 (1990), pp. 193–209. For women’s active roles in military conflict, see also Christoph Mauntel in this volume.

63 Caviness: Anglo-Saxon Women, Norman Knights (see note 7), p. 109.

64 RL 377: unze an Sarragûz, dâ was diu heidenscaft grôz. Dâ was gesezzen ein küninc vil vermezzen, geheizen Marsilie. Hôch was daz gebirge. Daz lant was veste, daz sûmte die cristen.

65 RL1518–1522: sage Marsilie, ich ne kêre niemer widere, ê ich Sarragûz zerstoere unde in gebunden vüere ûf einem esele hin ze Ache.

66 RL 417: komt er [Charlemagne] über berge, er geweltiget unser erbe, daz liut gemacht er cristen. For an image of the wounded Marsilie and Brechmunda sitting beside him, see St. Gallen, Kantonsbibliothek, Vadianische Sammlung, VadSlg Ms. 302, Front cover – Rudolf von Ems: History of the World. The Stricker, Charlemagne (; DOI: 10.5076/e-codices-vad-0302; Accessed 02–11–17). The surrender of Zaragoza itself is not visualised in this manuscript, nor are there any depictions of towns.

67 ChdR 2690–2693.

68 RL 6306: den arm er im abe swanc; and RL 6323–7327: der künc verlôs sînen zesewesen arm. Er flôch vil scantlîche in sînem aigen rîche mit vil ummanigen manne. Iedoch lebet er unlange. The first reference is also in the ChdR, the second is not.

69 For the mapping of social space, see Jones: Public and Private Space and Gender (see note 11), p. 256

70 McNamara: The Herrenfrage (see note 10); Ibidem: City Air Makes Men Free and Women Bound, in: Sylvia Tomasch, Sealy Gilles (eds.): Text and Territory. Geographical Imagination in the European Middle Ages, Philadelphia 1998, pp. 143–158.

71 RL 8612–8636: vater, sô in sîniu kint suochent, all ir nôt er wol beruochet. Mit ûf gerichten van kêrten sie gegen dem burcgraben. Diu künigin Brehmundâ, îlente sâ hiez siu die burgetor entsliezen. Den kaiser sie dar in liezen. Dem kaiser viel si ze füezen: ‚ich wil‘, sprach si, ‚richten unt büezen. Swâ ich mich versûmet hân, ich hân ez unwizzent getân. Di tiuvel hât mir zetrôste komen. Ich erkenne wol dîne wârhait. Hilf dû mir zuo der christenhait. Ich geloube an mînen trechtîn. Swie dû gebiutest, sô wil ich sîn.‘ Daz liut sich toufte unt bekêrte, alsô si got lêrte. Ir bistuom si stiften, unt si sich ze gote richten. Der kaiser unt sîne man, Brehmundam fuorten si dan [fol. 117r].

72 Caviness: Anglo-Saxon Women, Norman Knights (see note 7); and McNamara: City Air Makes Men Free (see note 70). The same observation has been made regarding the Old Testament, see Seeman: “Where is Sarah Your Wife?” (see note 8).

73 The word ideal is used purposely because there are sufficient narrations in chronicles about elite women who take on lordship, including warfare.

74 Mohja Kahf: Western Representations of the Muslim Woman. From Termagant to Odalisque, Austin, TX 1999, p. 4. For women in chansons de geste, see also Kimberlee A. Campbell: The Chanson de Geste, Woman to Woman, in: David P Schenck, Mary Jane Schenk (eds.): Echoes of the Epic. Studies in Honor of Gerard J. Brault, Birmingham, AL 1998, pp. 49–62, at p. 60; Kimberlee A. Campbell: Fighting Back. A Survey of Patterns of Female Aggressiveness in the Old French Chanson de Geste, in: Philipp E. Bennett, Anne Elizabeth Cobby, Graham A. Runnalls (eds.): Charlemagne in the North: Proceedings of the Twelfth International Conference of the Société Rencevals. Edinburgh 4th to 11th August 1991, Edinburgh 1993, pp. 241–251. We find the claim that Christian women do not behave properly in Islamic literature, for example with Usama b. Munqidh (d. 1188) and Imād al-Dīn al Ișfahāni, Saladin’s biographer (d. 1210), who considered Frankish women to have loose morals regarding sex and active participation in combat, see Carole Hillenbrand: The Crusades. Islamic Perspectives, New York 2000, pp. 374–394.

75 Liber ad honerem Augusti, c. 197. Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Cod. 120.II, fol. 118v. See Book in Honor of Augustus (Liber ad Honorem Augusti) by Pietro da Eboli, trans. Gwenyth Hood (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 398), Tempe, AZ 2012, pp. 196–197.

76 Liber ad honerem Augusti, c. 197. Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Cod. 120.II, fol. 108r. See Book in Honor of Augustus (see note 75), pp. 138–139.

77 RL 7128–7135 which mentions again that Marsilie flees to Zaragoza; RL 7143 where the pagans ask what happened to Marsilie’s arm; RL 7244 where Caliph Paligan’s men bring Marsilie a gauntlet; RL 7283 where Marsilie is described as being deprived of his arm, thus indicating his inability to act; RL 7335 where Paligan’s envoys inform their master about Marsilie’s arm. This fact is repeated in RL 7385 where Brechmunda talks with Paligan; RL 7378–7402 where Brechmunda and Paligan meet; and RL 7403–7442 where Paligan visits Marsilie, swears vengeance for his lost arm, and kisses Brechmunda farewell.

78 The parallel with the traitor Genelun who dropped the gauntlet he received from Charlemagne must have been evident to the audience.